When Tiny Houses Start To Look Different

It doesn’t look like I remember it. I mean, it looks beautiful. But it doesn’t look like I remember it. 

A few weeks ago I was walking through every page of the Tiny House Blog archive just the way I had in 2009. Of course at that time the site was only two years old so there were considerably less pages to walk through. In fact, when Jay Shafer took his Fencl on tour many of the blog posts read like a journal of Jay’s adventure. My, how far the blog has come. From one builder and a handful of dreamers, Tiny House Blog has grown to cover a new builder or location or law or design, each and every day! Now there are well over 1,000 pages of archived articles. Oh yes. It doesn’t look like I remember it. The noun “it” referring of course to the ProtoHaus Project. At the time Ann Holley and her husband to be (Darren Macca) with her parents (Steve and Miriam Holley) were building a tiny house in Colorado that they had named the ProtoHaus. The tiny house was part of Ann’s graduate work at Alfred University where Ann earned her Masters in Fine Art. Once finished the house was open to visitors on particular dates throughout the school year as a mode of sharing the experiment with the Alfred community. Last I heard they still welcome visitors to see both their original ProtoHaus and their later build ProtoStoga.

The reason I say it doesn’t look how I remember it is because I am keenly aware of the impression it left me with all those years ago. With its white color pallet, open shelving, comfortable loft area (with dormers), and crisp Roman shades, it was the perfect balance of minimal space and style. But at just 125 sq.ft. it seems…well, tiny! In today’s modern tiny house movement houses are built on 30′ trailers, feature double lofts and bunkbeds, have full size kitchen appliances, and don’t vaguely display the same desire to conserve and minimize the way the ProtoHaus did. It doesn’t look like I remember it.

Maybe I am getting old. Maybe I am transitioning into a purist. Whatever the case, the ProtoHaus reminds me of what initially drew me to the tiny house movement. There were no bells and whistles. There were no hydraulics and pumps and levers and buttons. There was a sleeping area, a small cooking area, a sitting area, and a bunch of style. It doesn’t look like I remember it because it looks so much better. In fact, through my years of being involved with the tiny house movement (now working on 8 full years) I have realized the following (consider this the ONLY list I will make for the new year observation):

I still don’t like the deep red colored metal roofs. I just don’t. They look to me like bad stabs at contemporary design with a rustic feel. The color is also overused and reminds me of tiny houses circa 2009 when Oprah declared them the future of housing.

DIYs are such a mixed bag. I am a DIYer. I am really good at some things and really bad at others. To compensate for my weaknesses I either hire professionals or I barter services with someone who has a different skillset. I always remember though that a tiny house on wheels is an accident waiting to happen for either me or anyone I encounter on the road. I’m happy some quality builder have come out of the woodwork.

Kent Griswold has been at it a long time. I mean, over 1,000 pages of archived blog posts? What tiny house, small house, micro house, tiny house product, builder, etc. has he NOT written about? Much is owed him.

The modern tiny house movement is a transition in mind, body, spirit, and consumerism. So many times it just has so little to do with the house and so much to do with what is inside you. To this day I still encourage people to focus within before ever driving the first nail.

The word ‘tiny’ is an odd one. I don’t think I had ever used the word ‘tiny’ in a sentence prior to 2009. I mean, I just hadn’t. It wasn’t part of my vocabulary. Even to this day I kind of chuckle at how much I use the word and how silly it sounds.

NOTE: This post was meant to be relaxed and silly. It is 2017; a new year. Much has changed and much more will change. There is a lot to be worried over in this world. Houses shouldn’t be one of them. We should all work hard to insure that our neighbor has the opportunities we do. That includes proper shelter. While a tiny house may not be the means to an end they most certainly can be an amazing step in that direction. Viva la tiny!


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Rhi - January 20, 2017 Reply

Tiny houses changed because other people got involved. I thought that’s what the movement was about, getting more people to build and live small. People tend to have their own idea and start doing things their own way.

While the piece may have been tongue in cheek, it’s indicative of one thing: people often lose control of things they start and end up with unintended, unforseen or even unwanted consequences (e.g. the US’s push to the far right resulting in “president Trump”).

Mike Moore - January 23, 2017 Reply

Another well written piece , Andrew !

    Andrew M. Odom - January 23, 2017 Reply

    Thank you so much! I really try each month to offer pieces that are informative, playful, a bit raw, and a whole lot topical!

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